Interrogating the Native Speaker Ideal in Second-language Curricula(Panel)
Karin Maxey (University of Chicago)
Amanda Randall (St. Olaf College)
Since the 1990s, foreign language instructors and researchers have called for the subversion of the native speaker construct. Perhaps the most well-known of these calls comes from Claire Kramsch (1997), who suggests that the term ‘native speaker’ itself is ill-defined, and that non-native speakers have valuable perspectives on a language and culture as non-members of a group. Similarly, Cem Alptekin criticizes the utopian, monolithic idea of native speakership as a linguistic myth (2002, see also Singh 1998, Hensel 2000, Liddicoat, 2016).
Yet, despite declarations from others that “the native speaker is dead” (Paikeday, 1985) this construct remains for language teachers and students the ideal example of proper language usage. Commercial curriculum packages, for instance, routinely follow this model: whether the discourse is didactically contrived or extemporaneous, ethnically-marked native speakers demonstrate the standard language in audio and video recordings for students to emulate. Even as the broadening cultural diversity of the German-speaking world are gaining recognition in language curricula and instruction--albeit often as a side-issue or separate unit, not fully integrated as a part of mainstream culture--the regionally “unmarked” native German speaker persists as the spoken and written linguistic and cultural ideal.